Reflections on the Epiphany Insurrection

Reflections on the Epiphany Insurrection January 14, 2021

by guest writer Alan B. Ward

The events described below occurred on January 6, 2021—Epiphany, the twelfth and final “day of Christmas.”  The Biblical stories for that season come from the second chapter of  the Gospel of Matthew.  I make several allusions to them in the following narrative.

Americans woke that morning to news that a new day was dawning for our nation’s politics.  As it did for those “wise men” long ago (Matthew 2:1–12), the news of Epiphany 2021 caught me by surprise.  Even though our modern “wise men” projected such a result was possible, it still seemed like a longshot to me.  And I’m certainly surprised from whence the “good news” came.  It came not from California, New York, or other bastions of blue, but from a former stronghold of the old red regime—Georgia.   Yes, both nationally and locally, Georgia has played a key role in bringing about this new blue day for America.

Meanwhile, back at the palace, the puppet king raged, desperate to cling to the last vestiges of the old world where he and his allies ruled supreme, and without meaningful opposition.  Just as Herod was “greatly troubled” by news that his dominion was threatened “and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3), so Donald Trump seems to have drawn all Washington, DC, into his tragic downward spiral of defeat.  While Trump didn’t order the slaughtering of infant children as Herod did (Matthew 2:16–18), one can argue that he’s already got the blood of more than 365,000 Americans on his hands because of his Administration’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.  And the death toll grows every day!  I wonder if he can he hear Rachel’s lament (Matthew 2:18) from the White House?

Furthermore, like Herod, Trump seems hell-bent on doing as much damage to his enemies—and even in these last days, his friends—as he exits.  On January 6—the day of Epiphany—and the day the Constitution stipulates that the results of a Presidential election shall be certified by a joint session of Congress, Donald Trump summoned his followers to gather in Washington, DC, to take to the streets in an effort to protest the election results—to “stop the steal” as he likes to say it.  That morning, the puppet king, who had been increasingly reclusive since losing the election in November, made an appearance before his loyal thralls.  He encouraged the crowd assembled to march to the Capitol, to “be strong,” and to take what was rightfully theirs.  And march they did…

Meanwhile, in the halls of Congress, the election certification process began.  Trump and his disciples plotted treachery in the aftermath of the election.  They came up with a plan to attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair vote that decisively showed the people desired a new leader.  They turned what is normally a formality that no one who isn’t a political pundit notices into a day of high drama.  One by one, these lawmakers delivered impassioned—but utterly false—soliloquys that included the same baseless accusations of widespread election fraud that Donald Trump had been spouting off to his supporters for months, saying in essence: “The only way I lose is if it’s rigged.” 

Despite those events, what happened next still caught me by surprise as I watched the surreal spectacle unfold on my TV screen.  The alphabetical rollcall of states certifying their electoral college votes only got as far as Arizona before chaos erupted—outside the chambers.   The aforementioned mob of Trump supporters reached the Capitol and seemingly strolled onto the grounds and into the building with little meaningful resistance from the police.  Stoked by their leader’s evil rhetoric a few hours earlier, these domestic terrorists stormed into the U.S. Capitol, staging what can only be described as an attempted coup.  The angry rioters forced lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and their staff to shelter in place and/or retreat to “undisclosed locations.”

Some members of the pro-Trump mob strolled through the rotunda of the Capitol as if they were on a tour.  They took selfies as they defiled the hallowed halls of Congress in  strangely orderly fashion.  Some paused for pictures—a few even did so with police officers!   One individual really stood out to me.  He was wearing Viking attire and set himself up on the dais of the U.S. Senate chamber and smiled as he  posed for photos.  This somehow seemed a fitting image to summarize this crazy day in U.S. history.  As the world watched, Jake Angeli and his band of brigands “raped and pillaged” one of the most enduring symbols of our democracy.

Four people lost their lives during the insurrection (one shot, three from medical issues), There was damage to the Capitol grounds—although things could have been much worse.   It is also painfully obvious that the police took much longer to restore order than they should have.  They acted much more decisively when the President wanted to have a photo op at a church near the White House during the Black Lives Matter protests last summer in Washington, DC. (There needs to be a whole separate discussion about the white privilege of being able to behave like a tourist when one participates in a coup attempt.)

Despite the seditious delusions of a small number of Trump-loyal Senators and Representatives, the results of the 2020 election were ultimately certified early in the morning on January 7.  Joe Biden will soon be sworn in as our 46th President, and Kamala Harris as the Vice President.  Nevertheless, there is no denying that January 6, 2021, was a dark day for America that has thrown our nation’s capital into turmoil.  (I wonder if Bethlehem felt similar during the final days of King Herod’s reign?)  We certainly will never forget the events of Epiphany 2021.  They will forever be a blemish on our democracy.  But these events also remind us that it’s often darkest before the dawn…

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